Skip to content

My journey from burned out freelance designer to launching my own design studio.

4 minutes read

On this post I'll walk you through my journey as a full-time freelance designer, important lessons I gained on the way, and how my mindset shifted thanks to systems, self-reflection and mindful productivity.

Some background

I’ve been a full-time freelance designer for the past 6 years, and it's been the craziest ride. Here's my timeline in a very compressed nutshell: from 10-12 hour work shifts at a Print Shop in Brooklyn, to Mad Men NY agency life, to being eaten alive as an independent freelancer, to founding my design studio (Blank Page Lab).

Where I'm at now

Scaling my studio is unknown waters for me.

I'm at a point where I feel like I'm back to square one, where I was when I was 20 and had no idea how to establish myself as a freelance designer. It's a beautiful, sometimes scary, refreshing as fuck moment. And definitely filled with possibility. Blank page.

So many things have changed since then, but the biggest shift has been my values.

When you start your freelancing career you constantly tap into this uncertainty state of mind in which you have no idea if you're gonna pay your next rent, find any gigs that month, etc. It's exhausting. Uncertainty is.

It's so easy to burn out under that mindset; crossing your own boundaries and working for people and projects you're not aligned with. That was my case when I was 20. Living in NYC and facing so much competition, working 3 jobs and having no business structure or goals. My only goal was to pay my expensive ass Brookyln rent and maybe have some money left to party.



Now that I feel established as a freelancer, there's nothing that matters more to me than my wellbeing and freedom. Mindful productivity; this is the center of my work, if I'm feeling like shit, my work will look like shit. And you don't want your designs to look like shit. Your clients also don't love that idea.

The shift

Big mindset shift -> my definition of success. Back then, I thought I would be successful when I had a portfolio full of amazing work, when my work would be featured in AIGA, It's Nice That or Pangram. I thought success meant recognition. But I also think in general lines this is what we think success is when we're 20 and we haven't experienced adult world.


I still don't know what my definition of success looks like to the hundred percent, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with recognition. Success to me sounds like working 100% of my time in what I love, and doing it efficiently so I can spend more time offline. Passive income of course being a big part of the dream. Build once sell twice type shit. For me, success equals freedom.

Systems


Another big difference is that I knew nothing about how important productivity systems are. Or systems in general. Now I cannot function without the system that I've been developing for the past year and a half. Is still a work in progress but I love experimenting and learning about it. Before I was "goal-less", or had very abstract goals i.e: be successful. (?) (lol). Now I'm extremely granular with my goal-setting practices and this has allowed me to organize my tasks, get to my milestones, and check off goals with clarity, calm and determination.

"Being busy"‍

Back then I thought "being busy" was indicative of being  good at what I was doing. I wanted to produce as much as I could, earn as much as I could, not let any business opportunity slip. I now have so much respect for my time. Fuck "being busy". Our culture has toxically taught us that busy means productive. This is something I've completely eliminated from my system.

Instead of just working to work, my head is set on building digital products, building a community, learning how to be a good leader and art director - and learning how to do it gracefully by thinking on the personal growth of my team members - and lastly, I'm looking at the possibility of working less, and earning more.

I don't know what success means for me yet, but I am building that definition little by little by experimenting, failing, learning, and trusting that as long as I know my what, the how will get to me.

Where I want to be

My first goal this year is learning how to build digital products. From prototype to launch. Building as little as possible, as scalable as possible. This might look like a template, a course, an e-book. I have no idea. All I know is that I'm taking steps towards passive income so I can spend time off-grid and traveling.

The second goal would be to "build" a community of enthusiastic, curious humans interested in building their own definition of freedom. Because I truly believe life is about defining freedom so you can go after it and live it.

I see myself in 3 years traveling more and working less. The goal is not to stop working because I really love what I do, the goal is falling in love with it so deeply that it gives me the income and time to travel. A mindful approach to business, from the place of my desires for freedom.

One of my biggest desires with this blog is to inspire people to fuck-off from the 9 to 5 system/mentality and understand that they can do absolutely anything if they put their mind and heart into it. That you build your dream job and your dream job gives you freedom.


Thank you for reading me, I find it incredible that someone is out there reading these thoughts and resonating with them <3

Stay curious

M(:

Next

Subscribe to a:/b, a monthly newsletter about building a life where work IS play